Shaam Larein – Sticka En Kniv I Världen

Swedish quintet, Shaam Larein, take their name from their theatrical Syrian singer and play an unusual hybrid of doom metal and post-punk. Imagine taking Siouxsie and The Banshees and splicing them with the art-school doom of Cult of Luna, and you’re still nowhere close to describing their sound. Which begs the question: do we devalue art when we try to fit it into a box? Sticka En Kniv I Världen translates as “stick a knife in the world”, which should give you a better idea what lays in store on the band’s sophomore effort.

The ritualistic rhythms and mystical fog of the opening title track are the definition of avant-garde metal. Tom drum patterns and moody guitar arpeggios give way to a doom metal dirge of unorthodox chords and subtle melodies, like The Cure covering Black Sabbath with their own unique amp gain and determination to avoid conventional rock shapes. Shaam’s vocal incantations conjure images of a manic-eyed shamanka exploring the symmetry of elegant hand gestures as she approaches the microphone. (You’ll know what this means if you’ve seen the Siouxsie and The Banshees performance of ‘Swimming Horses’ on Top of the Pops in 1984). ‘Flesh of Gold’ has the same effect, but the doom metal tempos gleam like windchimes in the early morning sun. Italian avant-garde quartet, Messa, are the only other band that exist in this unique domain.

You can see why this band caught the attention of Chelsea Wolfe on their 2020 debut. Shaam’s spellbinding ceremonies of outer body exultation take a perverse pleasure in the darker aspects of introspection. The Arabian scales only add to the exotic sense of place. ‘I Have No Face’ brings the vocals to the forefront of the mix like the closed-eyed meditation of Lisa Gerard (Dead Can Dance) at her most poignant. Let’s not overlook the standards of musicianship on this record, either. The guitarist uses a similar tone to James Dean Bradfield’s on The Holy Bible by the Manic Street Preachers – dry but just as ugly as it is melodic. How easy would it be for the bass to use the simple root notes of the guitar for the low end? In doom metal this would be a foregone conclusion, but Shaam Larein’s heart belongs to the gothic/post-punk brilliance of England in the mid-1980s. Latent organ notes enhance the instrumentation like a sobering rush of cold water splashed against your forehead.

Only one thing works against the band on this record, and that’s the reality that in perfecting their sound they also make it easier to predict. This means the element of surprise wanes by the time you reach ‘Murderer’ and ‘Caress My Thoughts’. Then the group vacate their doom metal stylings in favour of their post-punk preferences, and sound more like Christian Death. Shaam needs to remind us on ‘Leave Me Here to Die’ that her charismatic presence is the essential component in the band’s art. Here, her stunning vocal harmonies weave through the audio channels over an unsettling loop of animalistic breathing noises. This is more like it. No wonder the drummer reaches for the rack toms when she asks him to accent her abstract ideas with tangible rhythms.

The Roadburn and ArcTangent festivals will be queuing up to book Shaam Larein after one listen to this record. There’s no doubt it’s unique and cohesive and seldom uneventful. This is what you’ve been waiting for if you contemplated what a metal version of Siouxsie and The Banshees might sound like.



Release Date: 09/12/2022

Record Label: Svart Records

Standout tracks: Sticka En Kniv I Världen; Murderer; Leave Me Here to Die

Suggested Further Listening: Messa – Close (2022), Siouxsie & The Banshees – Tinderbox (1986), Chelsea Wolfe – Pain is Beauty (2013)